Nanjing Purple Mountain Observatory located on the top of the Purple Mountain, which is near the famous Scenic Zone of Bell Mountain, in Xuanwu District, Nanjing Municipality is the most renowned astronomical observatory in China. It is China’s first self-built research institution of modern astronomy, and it boasts the cradle of Chinese modern astronomy. And the former one was The Astronomical Research Institute of National Academia Sinica founded in February 1928.|
The central observatory station was built in 1934, located in the scenic area of the Purple Mountain, and the branches of the observatory station are respectively located in Qinghai Province, Jiangsu Province, Shandong Province and Heilongjiang Province and Yunnan Province. The establishment of the Purple Mountain Observatory signified the commencement of Chinese Modern Astronomic Research. A multitude of branches and observatories of Chinese modern astronomy are born, established and developed here. Thanks to its great achievements to Chinese astronomy, it is respected as the Cradle of Chinese Modern Astronomy.
The Main Entrance of the Purple Mountain Observatory of Nanjing
After the foundation of The People’s Republic of China, it was renamed as the Observatory of The Purple Mountain affiliated to Chinese Academy of Sciences, and abbreviated to Zi Tai. Founded on May 20, 1950, it is featured of the astrophysics and celestial mechanics. In March, 1999, it was accepted as one of the test plot of the knowledge innovation project of Chinese Academy of Sciences.
At the beginning, the observatory enjoyed a great reputation for its splendid architectures, rare apparatus and abundant books. The 60-centimeter-caliber reflecting telescope, the 20-centimeter-caliber refracting telescope (both made in Germany) and the meridian transit made by Swiss were almost the most advanced equipment of the time. And they are still housed in the observatory. Now, it is well equipped with modern facilities used for doing experiments and observing the sun, the moon, the planets, the fixed stars and satellites.
What's more, many ancient astronomical apparatus made of bronze are also displayed here, including Armillary Sphere, Simplified Armillary Sphere and Gnomon of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and Celestial Globe and Altazimuth of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).
The Armillary Sphere in the Purple Mountain Observatory of Nanjing
The Inscribed Name of Armillary Sphere on the Stone Plate in Ancient Chinese Small Seal Script in the Purple Mountain Observatory of Nanjing
The Armillary Sphere, designed by Zhang Heng in the Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220), was used to determine the position of the stars. It is not only an astronomical apparatus but also an exquisite craftwork. Its four poles were engraved with entwining dragons and the four sides of the base were cast with special flowers and animals. The one we can see today is a mimic of the Ming Dynasty. Simplified Armillary Sphere, as its name indicates, is the amelioration of Armillary Sphere. It is designed by astronomer Guo Shoujing in the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368). The precision of determination and the convenience of operation were both improved. Gnomon, having a history of more than 3000 years, was used to measure the shadow of the sun and determine the solar terms and number of days of a year. China is the first country to know that there are 365.25 days in a year.
Great achievements have been made in the observatory. Successively, more than 30 new variable stars and numbers of asteroids have been discovered, among which 100 asteroids have been numbered by the International Minor Planet Center. In addition, four comets were also discovered. The Ge Wang Comet was the first comet named with the surname of a Chinese discoverer. Besides which, the observatory contributed a lot in applications studies. It has successively established extensive links with other astronomical institutions at home and abroad.
The Inscription that Cai Yuanpei Wrote to Introduce the Purple Mountain Observatory of Nanjing
The Nanjing Astronomy and History Museum is within the observatory itself. It's the first museum of its kind in China. The museum has three exhibition halls, displaying full and accurate data and pictures. Here you will feel the immensity of the universe and the smallness of human beings.
You can take the ropeway to the observatory. And later you can go on to climb the main peak of Purple Mountain and enjoy its elegant scenery. Come here and be an amateur astronomer yourself!